Alabama quarterback Bryce Young
FILE - Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) works against Georgia during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game Dec. 4, 2021, in Atlanta. Alabama will face the fourth-ranked Bearcats (13-0) at the CFP semifinal Cotton Bowl on Friday, Dec. 31. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)


Patrick Werkmeister

Finally, we arrive at the pinnacle of the college football season where the four best teams will duke it out for the title of top dog. This year’s first college football playoff matchup will be the Cotton Bowl from AT&T Stadium in Texas, where Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young and the number one ranked Alabama Crimson Tide take on Desmond Ridder and the Cincinnati Bearcats. In their last game, Alabama stunned the country when they blew out undefeated Georgia in the SEC Championship, 41-24, and Cincinnati took care of Houston in the American Athletic Conference Championship game. While Cincy finished their season with a flawless undefeated record, unlike Alabama, the Tide are in a whole league of their own where they seemingly outmatch every other team in the country. With this in mind, here is what I love and why I love it for this CFP matchup. 

Alabama (-13.5)
The Tide opened this game as whopping 13.5 point favorites, and that betting line has remained steady at Alabama -13.5. While Bama was an average 7-6 ATS on the season, the Bearcats were a solid 8-5 ATS in their undefeated campaign. However, Alabama has shined brightest when it matters most, where they are a perfect 13-0 SU in their last 13 December games. While Cincy squandered any hope Notre Dame had of getting into the playoff when they beat the Irish, 24-13, this was really the only impressive victory for the Cats. Last year, Bama won it all and they’re looking to be the first time ever to go back-to-back. So after being an underdog to even make the College Football Playoff heading into championship week, Alabama now finds itself as the favorite to win the national championship as the playoff’s top seed. Young enters this game with 4,322 passing yards, 43 touchdown passes and only four interceptions in 2021. He will seek similar results this game with their electric running offense featuring speedy receiver Jameson Williams, while the Bearcats will have plenty of inexperience on their side. With Bama getting hot at the right time, expect to see the Tide put on a dazzling display where they should have full control in this one. Take Alabama to cover this large spread margin in this edition of the Cotton Bowl.    

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Under (57)
In what should be a low-scoring affair, Vegas oddsmakers have listed the total points for this game at 57. Cincinnati’s defense has been stifling offenses all season, where the under is 5-2 in their last seven games and 10-0 in Cincy’s past 10 as an underdog. Additionally, the total has gone under in six out of Bama’s last eight games where they’ve had to lean on their defense quite often. While both offenses run a pass-first system, neither team has the tempo on offense to make this game a shootout. The Bama defense has allowed 30+ points in a playoff game just twice, one of which they lost, so expect them to put on a show against this Cincinnati offense. However, the Bearcats defense has been one of the best in the nation in points per game and total yardage, so expect them to have some minor success vs an inconsistent Bama offense. Nevertheless, this year is no different for the Bama defense where they shut down offenses all year long. Both teams are too skilled on defense to really put up more than four touchdowns on offense, so expect this to be relatively low scoring. Don’t let this number fool you and bet the under. 

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